Your surgeon will close up the wound (incision) created during the surgery. Their approach will depend on the part of your body affected and the kind of surgery you had (e.g. open or keyhole surgery).
Common ways to close a surgical wound include:
- sutures or stitches – sewing the wound closed using a strong, threadlike material that can dissolve or will be removed at a later date (for more on this, see Follow-up appointments).
- staples – small metal clips that will be removed by your doctor once the wound has healed
- glue – clear liquid or paste used to seal minor wounds (up to 5 cm) or applied on top of sutures
- adhesive strips – pieces of tape placed across the wound to hold the edges together; may be used with sutures.
The wound will usually be covered with a surgical dressing to keep it dry and clean. The dressing will be changed as needed. If you have surgery as an inpatient, the nurses will look at the wound to see if it’s healing and to check for bleeding or signs of infection. When you have a shower, if the dressing is not waterproof it may need to be covered or taken off and reapplied afterwards.
The wound may feel itchy or irritated after surgery. Tell the nurses if this happens – it could be a sign it’s healing, but it may also be a problem, such as an allergic reaction to adhesive tape.
If you have day surgery, you may need to visit your GP to have the wound checked before seeing your surgeon a few weeks later. You may be given instructions on how to care for the wound at home.
Prof Andrew Spillane, Surgical Oncologist, Melanoma Institute of Australia, and Professor of Surgical Oncology, The University of Sydney Northern Clinical School, NSW; Lynne Hendrick, Consumer; Judy Holland, Physiotherapist, Calvary Mater Newcastle, NSW; Kara Hutchinson, Cancer Nurse Coordinator, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, VIC; A/Prof Declan Murphy, Urologist and Director of Genitourinary Oncology, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Prof Stephan Schug, Director of Pain Medicine, Royal Perth Hospital, and Chair of Anaesthesiology and Pain Medicine, The University of Western Australia Medical School, WA; Dr Emma Secomb, Specialist Surgeon, Hinterland Surgical Centre, QLD. We would like to thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
Click below to download a PDF booklet on this topic.
Coping with cancer?
Ask a health professional or someone who’s been there, or find a support group or forum
Looking for transport, accommodation or home help?
Practical advice and support during and after treatment